Top lawyer slams rampant theft of Trust Funds as nearly 700 lawyers under probe for misconduct in Zimbabwe 

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By Alois Vinga

SEASONED barrister Lloyd Mhishi has slammed the rampant abuse of Trust Funds and partisan behaviour, arguing that such vices are among the ill-practices defiling the legal profession  within and beyond the country’s borders.

The remarks come against a background where the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) reported that nearly 700 lawyers were under investigation as at September 2023.

Around 100 or more lawyers are deregistered annually in Zimbabwe due to shenanigans, which in most cases involve the abuse of Trust Funds.

Dispensing lessons drawn from his long and illustrious legal career, which kicked off on July 1,1994, Mhishi’s just published 286 paged book titled “Being The Best Lawyer”  takes a deep dive against illicit practices by lawyers.

“Trust funds embody the heart of the lawyer -client relationship .The whole essence of trust is epitomised with trust funds .The mishandling, misappropriation or embezzlement of funds entrusted with the lawyer , grossly violates that trust

“No lawyer should be allowed to practice a day longer if they violate this trust.This is the reason why the LSZ has routinely sought the deregistration of lawyers who fail in this regard,” he said in the book.

The book laments how the LSZ goes through a torrid time year in year out  giving orders for the deregistration of such errant miscreants, which signify the lowest that any lawyer can get to in practice which must be avoided.

He says there is no justification for breaching this Trust underscoring the need for fellow lawyers to desist from such ill-practices.

The book also criticises partisanship behaviour lawyers highlighting it must not be the modus operandi.

“Notwithstanding the exhortation of lawyers to be independent and impartial, some lawyers find themselves being identified with political partisanship or other causes.

“Life in Zimbabwe has had political and economic phases. I have lived through them. Before Ian Smith rose to power in April 1964, the government in power had its preferred lawyers who were different from the previous regime’s lawyers.

“Several lawyers notably became identified with the former late President Robert Mugabe’s regime. Those in the know will tell you the shift under the Second Republic of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. A seismic shift would also happen if power shifts were to take place today,” the book said.

The book underscores that a professional lawyer must not be identified with the politics of the day highlighting one must not be a NDU (National Democratic Union) lawyer or an NDP (National Democratic Party) lawyer but must be able to ethically represent those who choose to instruct them.

“This does not mean that a lawyer must not have his or her political inclinations. In the same vein, everyone else must not view lawyers through the narrow political prism,” the book added.